When Eve's last album was released, Kanye West was known only as a producer, Drake was playing an awkward teenager on Canadian TV and waitress Nicki Minaj was slinging Red Lobster's famous cheddar biscuits. To say a lot has changed is an understatement.
More than 11 years after that album, countless delays, a focus on acting and more than a few growing pains, the Grammy Award winner's long gestating fourth album, "Lip Lock," dropped last week.
"For some reason it all came together at this moment. It just feels right," the 34-year-old said after a photo shoot at The Times. "I didn't want to put this record out if I couldn't put it out the way I wanted to with a little more freedom."
The rapper, born Eve Jihan Jeffers, found that freedom by splitting from Interscope Records, her longtime label, in 2010 and launching her own imprint, From the Rib Music.
The story of "Lip Lock" begins in 2007, when the project was originally titled, "Here I Am." Eve issued a handful of singles, including the hit "Tambourine." Reviews surfaced, so did more tracks, but no album. "Interscope was going through transition," she casually offers. "We stopped seeing eye to eye, and that was really it. We grew apart."
The Philly bred rapper broke out in 1999 as the lone woman in hip-hop clique Ruff Ryders (DMX, the Lox, Swiss Beatz). Known as the "pitbull in a skirt," Jeffers offered a balance to the sexpot rhymes of Foxy Brown and Lil Kim with her formidable lyrical prowess, brash honesty and fresh swagger.
Her debut, "Let There Be Eve" went straight to No. 1 in 1999. Two more albums would follow, as would a hit TV series, film roles, a clothing line, endorsement deals and a Grammy in 2002 for her Gwen Stefani assisted smash, "Let Me Blow Ya Mind" (the first song awarded for rap/sung collaboration).
Despite being part of a golden era of nimble female voices that included Brown, Lil Kim and Missy Elliott, Eve — who now lives in London with her boyfriend Maximillion Cooper — said she feels like a brand new artist.
And for once she had complete control. "With Ruff Ryders, it was me and 50 other dudes," she said, laughing. "We all moved as one, which was good because you bounced so many ideas off of one another. But at the same time … I was influenced because that was my crew.
"This time it was me and who I picked to be around me," she continued. "It was intimate. Everything was completely different than what it once was. It makes you feel new."
Eve recruited longtime collaborator Swizz Beatz to contribute beats, along with hit makers Claude Kelly, Salaam Remi and Jukebox. Snoop Lion (formerly Snoop Dogg), Dawn Richard, Cobra Starship frontman Gabe Saporta, Pusha T and Elliott are among the guests on the album.
"Lip Lock" is classic Eve, from the siren blazing, self-titled opener to fiery bangers "She Bad Bad," "Wanna Be" and "Grind or Die" wedged in-between feel-good party records. She even dipped into heavier material with the inspirational, pop-leaning lead single, "Make It Out This Town," which she wishes urban radio would have embraced more.
Regardless of the material, that vicious, unforgiving flow that helped her earn that early "pitbull" moniker takes center stage on the disc. She said she hopes people get a chance to see her for who she is.
"I know it's going to be hard because I come from Ruff Ryders. But I want people to see where I am now as a woman, an artist, a person," she said. "I had fun with this record. I didn't want people to try to compare me to anybody — I wanted to make some good ... music."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun